Eva Marquez was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of European immigrants. Ms. Márquez has spent most of her life outside of her home country.
At the age of five, Eva Marquez accompanied her parents to the United States, where she and her family settled permanently. After graduating from university, Ms. Marquez went on to complete graduate studies in International Relations in Spain. She went on to receive her Master of International Studies degree from the University of Sydney and went on to work in the global health field in Sub Saharan Africa and South East Asia.
Eva Marquez currently resides in Southern Africa. She is busy promoting her book Sweetest Taboo.
Readers can learn more about Eva Marquez and her work by visiting the following links:
Could you please tell us a bit about your book? The story? The characters?
Absolutely! The main character, Isabel Cruz, was 15 years old when she met Tom Stevens. She was 15 when they – and sometimes reckless – fascination. When he finally approached her after swim practice and told her that he shared her feelings, it was the start of a forbidden and dangerous relationship.
Readers can join Isabel as she makes her way through this dark love story, hiding from teachers, lying to her parents, and defying the authorities to make a life with the man she loves. Watch as she discovers the wonders of love and romance, and the terrible betrayal of jealous friends. And cry with her when she learns the hard truth about life and the people in her world. Sweetest Taboo is inspired by the true and tragic stories of students who fall in love with their teachers, and live with the hard truths of forbidden romances. In a world full of after-school specials on sexual predators, this touching book seeks a different path, casting both student and teacher in a gentle light, and showing that true love may lie at the base of even the most illicit romance.
How did you come up with the title and how much say did you have on the cover design?
As with most teenagers, much of their emotions and experiences can be captured quite well with ‘hit’ songs. Although Sade is probably not the kind of artist that Isabel would be listening to at that age nor at that period of time (early ’90s), Sade was a big inspiration when writing this book and the song, “Sweetest Taboo” resonated incredibly well with this story, especially from the perspective of the main character, Isabel. For instance, Isabel is conflicted about her relationship with Tom (aka Mr. Stevens), she knows it’s wrong, she knows that society would frown against it and that Tom could potentially face prison time should they be caught in the act, but at the same time the relationship she has with Tom feels so incredibly good. For Isabel, what she has with Tom is the Sweetest Taboo.
I must admit, though, the book’s title changed several times as I edited and re-edited content. It started out as Euphoric at Sixteen, then it became Lies My Teacher Told Me and the longest running title the draft manuscript had was No Ordinary Love, which is yet another Sade song title. In the end, I felt very strongly about the book title being a chapter title from the book (which coincidentally, are all named after song titles). I decided, after several discussions with friends that had read the draft, that Sweetest Taboo was the most appropriate title for this controversial book. As for the cover, I had 100% control over that and designed it myself, with the fancy touches added on by a professional graphic designer.
Do you have a favorite line or excerpt that you would like to share from your book?
There are so many! But, let me provide a book excerpt that might spike some interest.
“Coach Stevens and Vicky were waiting for me outside of the girl’s locker room. As soon as Vicky saw me, she gave me a nod and ran ahead toward the swimming pool, leaving Mr. Stevens and me to walk alone. This should not have been an awkward moment for either one of us; he was my coach and I was a swimmer on his team. Time spent alone before a meet should have consisted of some last words of wisdom or encouragement. Perhaps we would have discussed the races I was to swim, and my chances against the other team. We may also have talked about the classes he taught, and whether I would be using them to pad my transcript in the next two years.
Instead, though, we said nothing, and the thirty seconds it took us to walk to the poolside were slow and tense. I searched for words that would break the silence, but came up with nothing. This was the chance I had been waiting for – Mr. Stevens was walking next to me, with no one else around. I could have said anything I wanted. But my mind stubbornly refused to tick, and my lips remained glued together.
I noticed instead the confident momentum of his walk, and the proximity of his body to mine. He was close to me – almost close enough to graze my hand with his own. Certainly closer than he should have been. He seemed to tower over me, although he was only about 6 inches taller than I was. That height comforted me; I felt protected in his presence.
He must have felt the awkwardness of the silence, too, because he stopped walking and turned toward me. I stopped in turn and looked up at him.
‘Isabel, are you nervous?’ he asked quietly.
I had been so preoccupied with my thoughts and fantasies that I replied without thinking. ‘No, you don’t make me nervous.’
He drew back, confused, and I felt my cheeks flush crimson. I had misread the situation, and grasped for a way to save the conversation.
‘Um, what I mean is, are you trying to make me nervous about my event?”’ I asked quickly, smiling. ‘If you are, it’s not working,’ I forced another bright smile and ducked my head, looking up at him through my lashes.
He laughed and placed his hand on the back of my neck, pressing his fingers softly to my skin. I stopped breathing, reveling in the feel of his fingertips caressing me. He leaned forward to speak closer to my ear.
‘You’ve got nothing to be nervous about, young lady. And you certainly don’t need to be nervous about me.’
I blushed again, and he released me. He had understood my statement, then, and seen through my attempt to cover the mistake. I looked up at him and smiled, then turned and walked toward the pool. As I put my cap on, though, I turned to look at him again, and caught the smile that lingered at the corner of his mouth. My heart hammered at my ribcage and my knees grew weak, but I forced myself to turn away and focus on the upcoming meet.”
What are some of your favorite ways to promote your work?
At this point, Sweetest Taboo is a self-published title and I do not have any plans to sell the rights of the book/story to a publisher. It was not an easy decision to make, but after a whole lot of research, I found that self-publishing suited my ‘go getter’ and ‘controlling’ personality much better! The first thing I did to promote my book once a release date was set out in the future was to hire a good web designing team to put a top-notch and graphically appealing website together for the book, which included key content such as: 1) book trailer, 2) free content (first two chapters of the book), 3) reviews, and 4) a blog.
As a relatively new author in the fiction genre (in my professional work I write publications on scientific elements of HIV prevention and HIV risk behaviors), I knew that a catchy and fully loaded website was absolutely necessary to show off what I believe to be a very high quality product…Sweetest Taboo!
A snazzy website was definitely not the be all and end all of my promotional endeavors, it was the very beginning. Not much happened after the website went ‘live’ because the promotion of the website through Search Engine Optimization was a necessary next step, then a press release about the book’s impending launch date (October 1, 2012), then of course a social media outreach plan was developed and implemented for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Pininterest, and Google+. Once those key elements were in place, and once a handful of bloggers began to read and subsequently review ARCs of my book, talking about the book and posting and sharing reviews, the website began to take off with site traffic. It’s still nowhere near the site traffic levels I’d like the site to be, but with time and word of mouth, I am confident things will really begin to happen.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
I have a pretty hectic day job loaded with a lot of responsibility so my writing days are limited to weekends and if I’m lucky a sick day or two here and there. I write (and work) best during daylight hours, as I absolutely LOVE my hours of rest. So, my typical writing day starts off after an early breakfast (I have a toddler so she wakes me up very early on the weekends). I settle her in for a while or send her off to her friend’s house across the street for a few hours, and then I sit at my beautiful study, which overlooks two different patios in my back yard, that are both adorned with potted flowers. If it’s warm out, I open the French doors and let the breeze and warmth in, as I like to feel nice and cozy when I write.
Ever since I was in school, I was fortunate to be one of those students who could concentrate and zone really well and that has helped tremendously in my writing pursuits. For example, I can start writing at 9 am and be so engrossed in my work that I could write for approximately 2-3 hours and have a fully developed chapter completed. Of course, once that happens then I have to call it a day because I’m mentally exhausted. My workflow is very much driven by short spurts of concentration and generally speaking, those spurts will equate to one fully completed chapter. Once I save my work and fetch my daughter, I cease writing for the day. However, if during the course of the day an idea for the book just hits me, I jot it down on a notepad next to my computer and leave it there until I can sit down again for a 2-3 hour period and develop that idea.
What are some ways that you like to relax?
I am a very normal young woman from Southern California who enjoys life, loves to travel, loves to discover cultures and learn about cultural history, and enjoys a good sky dive, bungee jump and extreme sport here and there to make life interesting!
What author/s do you think are overlooked in the writing/reading world today?
I must say, I’m a little disappointed at the success of Fifty Shades of Grey and what this success represents in our society. Although I’ve not read all three books, I found the first two to be poorly written and unrealistic. Of course, that is only my opinion and clearly Americans loves this type of fiction, right? As these types of books hit the national best sellers’ lists, I think there are many other amazing authors producing exceptional books that go overlooked. For example, I recently read White Tiger by Araving Adiga who also wrote Last Man in Tower. Adiga is an expert storyteller and he writes sarcastic and incredibly witty fiction.
The ‘white tiger’ of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society. Adiga’s prose is acerbic, but yet telling of the modern Indian society where corruption is rampant and socio-economic divides the Indian population into distinct groups that are either exploiting or exploited. Adiga is one of a series of authors whose exceptional literary work has been overlooked in the reading world.
What author would you most like to meet and why?
There are dozens of authors I admire, but two that have captivated me with their work are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Julia Alvarez. Ms. Adichie is Nigerian-born and now living in London and I think I had an instant connection with her work because I lived/worked in Nigeria for two years and was able to really get to know the southern Nigerian culture and context because of my work in the communities. Her first book, Purple Hibiscus, resonated with me because of my experiences in Nigeria and her second book, Half of a Yellow Sun, was so expertly written and wove four amazing human and social stories that I fell absolutely in love with her prose and skill for telling complex stories. Ms. Adichie writes about what she knows well, Nigeria and Nigerian culture, history and society and because she does so, her books include incredibly sincere stories.
Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American who writes primarily adult fiction, although she has also written young YA fiction as well, which are characterized by fantasy-type series. My favorite all-time book from Ms. Alvarez is In the Time of the Butterflies, which is a uniquely narrated book written in the perspective of four sisters growing up in the Dominican Republic under the dictator ship of President Trujillo. It’s superbly narrated and the story just tells itself effortlessly, it seems. Another book I very much enjoyed was How the García Girls Lost Their Accent, which is a story about Dominican immigrants to New York and their journey into mainstream American life. What these two authors have in common is that they are strong, confident and experienced women writing fiction about their natal lands, writing about their contexts and weaving extraordinary stories of strength and love in times of adversity.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share with readers?
Although I did not intend on Sweetest Taboo being part of a series or trilogy, I decided that my next literary project would embark upon the story before the story, so to speak. Readers really want to know what Isabel was thinking when she became intimate with her school coach, they want to know how she could have gotten herself into such a mess, a mess that involved the authorities and potential prison time for Mr. Stevens, the man she loved most. So what I am doing is writing the prequel to Sweetest Taboo that explores Isabel’s childhood and early adolescence as an immigrant in a Los Angeles suburb. Readers can expect complex and somewhat disturbing revelations, some violence, and definitely some tears. Then of course, there will be a sequel to Sweetest Taboo, where readers will learn about Isabel and Tom’s journey and what their relationship had in store for them. The stories I weave will always include trials and tribulations, but they will also include redemption and hope. Depending on how life, work and dissertation writing go, I plan on completing the sequel by mid-2013.
What is something about yourself that would come as a surprise to many people?
I’d like my readers to know that aside from raising my two-year-old as a single mother, directing a national HIV/AIDS program in Southern Africa and working on the final chapters of my doctoral dissertation (who said women can’t have it all?), I LOVE having fun! That’s probably not inherent in my bio.
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